I had the blessing of having a great dad. That can sound pompous and proud, and in a way it is when I say that—perhaps because it isn’t always a given. When we hear that someone is “a great father,” it can conjure up a host of ideas of what it means. Many people might think that a great dad is a father that provides a place to live, food to eat, and most of the necessities of life. That's important, but in my opinion, there are other essential elements that make up how to be a good dad.
There are five qualities that make a great father, from a daughter who experienced one first hand.
1. A great dad is a role model
The first quality is about setting an example; model the behavior you want your child to model. More than anything we say, our children see what we do. They will imitate our behavior, so have immitatable behavior. Dads who set an example by the way they handle tough situations, how they talk to others, and how they conduct themselves in their everyday life is what children will absorb.
2. A great dad is patient
Patience is a quality that is hard to learn, but so important to have as a parent of a child who is growing, developing and changing. Every child moves through those changes at their own pace, and it can be easy to compare your child with another kid. But patience is the wonderful tool that allows us to embrace and revel in where they are, supporting the child’s challenges and encouraging their strengths.
3. A great dad is accepting
Acceptance is another trait of a great dad. Not every child is going to be the top of their class, or be the best athlete or the most popular. My brother was born premature and developed a physical disability. My father and mother nurtured him into becoming the best he could be by accepting him as he was, but also working tirelessly to educate him, fostering his well-being, helping him to feel unlimited, and getting him the treatments and resources he needed to give him the best start in life they could. Meeting your kids where they are instead of where you want them to be begins with the acceptance of where and who they are.
4. A great dad is kind
Kindness cannot be understated—especially from a father. It is the way something is said, in the way we talk to each other around the dinner table or in the car. The words we choose to express how we feel when we are mad or sad matter. A therapist once asked me if I wanted my child to be kind or happy. After some thought, my reply was happy. The therapist replied, “choose kind and happy will follow.”
5. A great dad is present
The last and most important lesson in how to be a good dad is in being present. That means when you are with your child, be there. Laying the foundation of being available and present when you are with them and engaging with them in whatever time you have with them is so very important. Everyone wants to be seen and heard, especially a child by their parents. So dads and moms, make the effort to be present.
In those moments of bedtime stories, sweet hugs, playtime, and school car rides, parents make the child feel seen and valued. My dad worked five part-time jobs at times, but still made time at the end of a long work day to give us kids a piggyback ride. I remember the thrill of that to this day and the fact that he took time to play with us.
Seeing my dad at parent-teacher conferences with mom, in the audiences of our school and church performances, and his example of patience, acceptance, kindness and presence is imprinted on me. As a mother to two amazing daughters, I learned a lot from both of my parents. The gift of a great dad has shaped who I am as a parent and a person.
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